Belgium may need to sell more state assets in 2014 to trim debt

BRUSSELS Thu Jan 30, 2014 8:34am EST

BRUSSELS Jan 30 (Reuters) - Belgium may need to sell further assets this year to bring its total debt down as agreed with the European Commission, Belgium's finance minister said on Thursday.

At the end of 2013, Belgium's public sector stood at 99.7 percent of annual economic output, from 99.8 percent in 2012.

The marginal reduction was principally due to sale of the bad bank of former lender Fortis which yielded 1 billion euros ($1.36 billion) and the 3.25 billion euro divestment of a stake in Fortis's former Belgian business to BNP Paribas.

Belgium still owns majority stakes in telecoms operator Belgacom and postal service and the whole of Belfius, the former Belgian retail banking arm of bailed-out Franco-Belgian group Dexia.

It also has a 10.3 percent stake in BNP Paribas.

For 2014, the country has agreed with the European Commission to bring its debt down to 98 percent, Finance Minister Koen Geens told a news conference.

"The political approach has been to sell non-strategic holdings with added value at the most opportune moment. Everything else is too delicate to comment on," Geens said.

Geens said last year's budget deficit stood at 2.7 percent, slightly below the European Commission's expectation of 2.8 percent but above the country's target of 2.5 percent.

The government aims to further reduce the deficit to 2.15 percent in 2014, an election year. ($1 = 0.7329 euros) (Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; Editing by Philip Blenkinsop and David Evans)